Opera star returns to the stage after winning cancer battle

Monica McGhee (right) with trust fundraising officer Lorna McCafferty during a visit to St Andrew's Hospice
Monica McGhee (right) with trust fundraising officer Lorna McCafferty during a visit to St Andrew's Hospice

A Motherwell opera singer has returned to the stage after winning a battle with cancer which threatened to end her career.

Monica McGhee (29) was left devastated when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the beginning of last year after finding a lump while preparing for a concert in London.

The soprano found fame as part of the operatic group Amore who performed at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations and in front of 90,000 people at Wembley before an FA Cup Final.

After successful surgery, the singer, who regularly appears at the Royal Opera House in London, has now resumed performing.

Monica told how she feared she may never be able to sing again after being given her cancer diagnosis.

She said: “I found the lump when I was warming up for a concert in London in December 2016.

“In January 2017 they did some scans and I needed a biopsy and a week after I was given the news that it was cancer and I needed surgery.

“I think anyone who’s ever heard the news they have cancer will say that it’s an extremely anxious time, and due to the nature of my surgery I also had the added worry about the potential damage that could have been done to my voice.

“Being an opera singer that’s the last thing you want to happen.

“As with all operations there are risks, but I was lucky enough to have a surgeon who specialises in opera singers and that meant they kept the risk of damaging my voice as low as possible.

“But it was definitely a huge fear of mine leading up to the surgery and it was the first thing I checked with my surgeon when I came around from the operation, and he was happy to say that no damage had been done.

“My tumour was removed and I am so grateful for the incredible efficiency and work of the NHS.”

Monica performed a free concert at Motherwell Cathedral earlier this month in celebration of her recovery and to thank local people for their support, with donations collected in aid of St Andrew’s Hospice.

She said: “During my own battle with thyroid cancer I was overwhelmed by the support from my local community.

“When I was home recovering-the number of people that said they were keeping me, and my vocal cords, in their prayers for a full recovery was so touching.

“I was thankfully given the all clear and able to start back work at The Royal Opera House so I wanted to do a concert now that my voice is back in shape, and as a thank you to people who showed me and my family so much support.

“I was also very aware that I had been so fortunate to have had such a successful recovery from this illness and so I wanted to do something to help people who are not so lucky in these situations.

“I have always been a huge admirer of the work of St Andrew’s Hospice and so they felt like a natural choice to support in this event.”

Monica will be touring Scotland during the summer in Opera Bohemia’s production of The Pearl Fishers.

The 12-date tour runs from July 25-August 26 including performances at Lanark Memorial Hall on August 19. St John’s Renfield in Glasgow on August 20 and the Edinburgh Fringe on August 22.